On the eve of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on Lake Como in Italy, MINI unveiled its Superleggera Vision, the first formal collaboration between the brand that loves to motor and the legendary Italian coach-building firm Touring Superleggera. The open-top, compact two-seater roadster is born from a British-Italian romance, and the concept car inherits the best that each of its parents has to offer. "The MINI Superleggera Vision elegantly perpetuates what the Classic Mini started 55 years ago: reduction to the essentials," says Anders Warming, Head of MINI Design. "Its energetic, minimalistic design embodies the dynamic essence of an automobile. At the same time, it creates unique emotional beauty in combining the past and future of the automotive industry."
A longer bonnet on the typical MINI stance lends a more dynamic look to the otherwise stout form, and a clean-up of the lines creates a seriously refined overall appearance. "MINI and Touring both believe that proportions are the key factor of beauty, and share the same values of essentiality and innovation" says Louis de Fabribeckers, Head of Design of Touring Superleggera. "In this car all unnecessary equipment or decoration is sacrificed, as performance is gained through lightness and efficiency of the bodywork and interior. The Italian touch is in the proportions and the typical waistline." And it’s a high waistline, but it serves the car well.
Careful not to forsake MINI’s signature personality and esteemed heritage, British Union Jacks are built in to both the taillights and the door-frames. Adding a bit of flair to the car’s reductive elegance is a rear fin that rises from the boot. The adornment, which smartly houses the center brake light, could have made the car feel like a bulldog wearing a shark fin in less skilled hands—but the emphasis was pulled back to find just the right balance between clever and crazy.
The interior design echoes the exterior's stripped-down and nothing-but-the-essentials mandate. The two-toned, hand-stitched leather offsets the sleek brushed aluminum dash and gauges. No distracting LCD displays or numerous flips, levers or switches here; the emphasis is very clearly on one thing and one thing only—the experience of driving.
"Weight is the enemy. Air resistance is the obstacle." This automotive truth, declared by Felice Bianchi Anderloni—founder of Carrozzeria Touring, the company that later became Touring Superleggera—remains the driving philosophy at the firm today. Their structural methodologies have, to be sure, evolved over the years; today’s unveil is rendered with a hand-formed aluminum body and carbon-fiber boot and bonnet. ("Superleggera" translates to "super-light" in English.)
The design concept that Warming and de Fabribeckers conceived was first hand-sculpted at actual size. From there the master builders at Superleggera constructed a metal frame that would ultimately hold the aluminum sheets in place while the body was hand-formed.
While the MINI Superleggera Vision is a one-off concept car, we're hopeful a production model just like it will be released in the near future. It confirms another automotive truth: less can be much, much more.
Workshop images by Josh Rubin, vehicle images courtesy of MINI